At Woodland Regional High School, there is an up and coming rivalry between two students that most people do not know about. Rivalries such as Kasparov vs Karpov, and Fischer vs Spassky have fueled the sport of chess for years. That same passion is associated with Woodland chess players Al-Mamoun Saleh and Jimmy Schwarz.
Saleh and Schwarz have experience in chess to say the least, and thrive in the spotlight. Each achieved success in the extracurricular activity in the past, which certainly fuels the competition for the future. Saleh and Schwarz both feel as though they have what it takes to be considered the best player at Woodland, and take great pride in their skills. Despite being friends outside of chess, the boys are mortal enemies when surrounding the board.
Let’s first take a look at Saleh, a chess player with a 1338 rating. Saleh entered Region 16 his freshman year; however, he has had no problem distinguishing himself as an intelligent leader among his classmates. Cool, confident, and collected -traits that correlated to chess- is exactly what Saleh i. Saleh notes his inspirations for the game have two completely different roots.
“I got into chess after watching the world famous series, The Queen’s Gambit. It is a nice, short Netflix series that really inspired me,” said Saleh. My dad, however, was the one who taught me chess, and how to move my piece.”
Saleh made it clear that he loves to attack and make the first move, rather than take a slower approach.
“There are a lot of people out there, such as Jimmy, who like to play openings that are conservative. I think it’s kind of boring. I like to sacrifice some of my pieces to open up the board. It gives me more opportunities to attack,” Salah said.
Saleh is a go-getter, and possesses an ambitious playstyle which certainly contradicts the strategies of his rival, Schwarz.
Schwarz shares the same love for chess as Saleh. Schwarz is a student athlete and a main asset to the Woodland boys indoor/outdoor track and field team, and hurdles with great stamina and speed. Able to utilize those skills around the chess board, he uses them against any opponent that challenges him.
“I learned how to play chess when I was really young, and then when chess became pretty big I had a headstart and excelled,” said Schwarz.
As confident as he is humble, Schwarz takes great pride in his skills while also knowing that the game does not come easy.
“I can maybe see myself competing in tournaments in the future. I have played around with my friends and competed in some small tournaments, but if I actually put the work in I could win some money.”
What fuels the fire between both Saleh and Schwarz is the competitive nature of each of the two players.
“It sometimes depends on the time control; however, I do believe that I am better than Jimmy,” said Saleh.
The rivalry of Saleh vs Schwarz is certainly something to get excited about, especially with the possibility of a Woodland Regional High School Chess Tournament arising. Although it is not guaranteed that the two will meet in the championship match, it will certainly provide a thrill throughout the tournament. The skills that each of these students possess are remarkable. Regardless of who is “better” at chess, it is important to assess each of their unique playstyles, and the desire of each opponent to beat the other. Schwarz sums up his take on the argument with his honest opinion.
“I like to think that I am better, but it is pretty even. I just want to beat Al.”